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Riding the Unit: Selected Non-fiction 1994-2004

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Literary Nonfiction. A mad mix of bohemian memoirs, polemics, exposes, roadtrips, fish essays, screeds on translating and linguistics, some Dylan crit, and an epic jaunt upon the rails make this collection a gritty, edgy, colorful romp through the raw imagination of America's greatest gar advocate. Literary Nonfiction. A mad mix of bohemian memoirs, polemics, exposes, roadtrips, fish essays, screeds on translating and linguistics, some Dylan crit, and an epic jaunt upon the rails make this collection a gritty, edgy, colorful romp through the raw imagination of America's greatest gar advocate.


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Literary Nonfiction. A mad mix of bohemian memoirs, polemics, exposes, roadtrips, fish essays, screeds on translating and linguistics, some Dylan crit, and an epic jaunt upon the rails make this collection a gritty, edgy, colorful romp through the raw imagination of America's greatest gar advocate. Literary Nonfiction. A mad mix of bohemian memoirs, polemics, exposes, roadtrips, fish essays, screeds on translating and linguistics, some Dylan crit, and an epic jaunt upon the rails make this collection a gritty, edgy, colorful romp through the raw imagination of America's greatest gar advocate.

6 review for Riding the Unit: Selected Non-fiction 1994-2004

  1. 4 out of 5

    J.P.

    This book cost me a job. Well, a volunteer position, really. Until recently, I was the president of the Literary Nonfiction Haters’ Club. To me, literary nonfiction was the written equivalent of the “day-old” table at your local bakery—cold, hard collections of diary jottings, college lecture notes and, ahem, book reviews. My belief in this estimation of literary nonfiction was as firm as yesterday’s bagels. Then I read Riding the Unit: Selected Nonfiction 1994-2004 by Mark Spitzer. Spitzer is a p This book cost me a job. Well, a volunteer position, really. Until recently, I was the president of the Literary Nonfiction Haters’ Club. To me, literary nonfiction was the written equivalent of the “day-old” table at your local bakery—cold, hard collections of diary jottings, college lecture notes and, ahem, book reviews. My belief in this estimation of literary nonfiction was as firm as yesterday’s bagels. Then I read Riding the Unit: Selected Nonfiction 1994-2004 by Mark Spitzer. Spitzer is a poet (The Pigs Drink From Infinity)/novelist (Chum)/Rimbaud translator (From Absinthe to Abyssinia) extraordinaire. His book was so fresh-from-the-oven hot, it was steaming. I braced myself for half-baked journal entries. Instead, in “Dinner with Slinger”, Spitzer provided an engaging and even-handed account of his college days spent studying with a noted poet turned boozy blowhard. Spitzer skillfully picked through the besotted b.s. to find the bard’s point—why we, as a people, have lost the “consciousness” to truly appreciate art (8). I expected prim pages torn from the family album. In “Dinner at My Mother’s”, Spitzer surprised me with a considerate, hilarious description of a day he spent with his literary biography-interpreting mother and his famous potter stepfather. The piece hinged on critics’ habits of analyzing artworks to hell and back. It was like an episode of “Married with Children” co-written by Woody Allen and Eugene O’Neill. I was set for stale memoranda. Instead, Spitzer delighted me with “Fakos in France”, an insightful remembrance of his time as Writer in Residence at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, and his stint as a stagehand at a poetry reading there for two Beat Generation icons who’d turned into kudos-collecting squares. I anticipated a professorial review of some obscure anthology. A review, I got—of Bob Dylan’s notorious and notoriously difficult Tarantula. Spitzer solidly and lucidly defended Dylan’s poem, laying the blame for its bad rep on critics’ failure to recognize Tarantula for what it is, rather than on Dylan’s challenging, but purposeful, use of allegory. Above all else, Mark Spitzer’s humor and energy made Riding the Unit a memorable read. Whether taking the piss out of Allen Ginsberg, arm-wrestling Jean Genet’s literary executrix or ribbing his stepdad by hyper-analyzing everything like an English major amped on caffeine, Spitzer kept the pace brisk and the overall experience entertaining and informative. With my view of literary nonfiction turned upside-down, I resigned from my post as the president of the Literary Nonfiction Haters’ Club. But since it was due to a great book by a fine writer, I was happy to do so.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kane Faucher

  3. 5 out of 5

    J.J.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jen

  5. 4 out of 5

    ryan bernhardt

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dana

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